BLACKBURN Harriers extended their winning sequence at the Winter Warmer 10K Road Race to five years when Karl Billington added his name to the honours board at the weekend.
With three-time champion Ben Fish absent, following his club record breaking 20-mile run in Bramley, Berkshire, on February 12, England cross country ace Billington took full advantage by taking victory at a very sunny Witton Park on Sunday.
In perfect running conditions, Billington held off stiff competition, particularly from his own Harriers club-mates, to finish first in a time of 33 minutes and 35 seconds.
It was some way short of Fish’s record time of 31:23 set in 2010, but nonetheless it kept the winning trophy in familiar club territory.
Not since Rick Hayman’s triumph in 2007, in the colours of Sale Harriers, has the event been won by a non-Blackburn Harrier. Fish stole the show in 2008, 2010 and last year, while Chris Hart marched to victory in 2009.
There was almost more local joy in the women’s race, but defending champion Beckie Taylor, also a Harrier, was just over a minute behind Keighley and Craven’s Amy Green in finishing second.
The popular event, well organised by Blackburn Road Runners, attracted just one short of 300 entrants, all keen to try their hands on the dreaded climb up Buncer Lane.
Harriers’ Great Britain pole vault star Holly Bleasdale, fresh from her victory at the AVIVA Grand Prix in Birmingham the previous day, was back at Witton Park to fire the starting pistol, and later presented the prizes, as runners began with a preliminary lap and a half of the racing track.
There was very little to separate the leading men in the early stages of the race.
But Billington, sixth in last month’s Lancashire Cross Country Champion-ships, gradually put plenty of daylight between himself and the chasing pack, crossing the finishing line over half a minute clear from Gary Pennington (34:11) of Preston Harriers.
Likewise, Pennington was some distance ahead of those behind him as a three-way Harriers battle for third place ensued.
In the end, Dominic Mahoney claimed the bronze place position in 35:12, with his club-mates Paul Bradshaw (35:29) and Paul Guinan (35:37) fourth and fifth respectively.
Other sub-40 minute runs from local entrants came in the shape of Breton Holdsworth, of Chorley Harriers, in 20th, Chorley AC’s Michael Chalfont in 22nd, Blackburn Harrier Evan Cook in 33rd and Derek Reilly of Darwen Dashers in 34th.
Cook was among the category prize winners, taking the vet 60 crown, while Darwen Dasher Jacqueline Shaw claimed the women’s vet 45 honours.
The junior 2.5k race was won by Blackburn Harrier duo Byron Abbott and Elizabeth Greenwood.